Bookwitch bites #66

Double sixes! How exciting. Let’s be mean. I mean, let me be witchy.

I know. I’m not a native English speaker. I may have been headhunted (hah!) by an agent last week, but I won’t be writing a book. The Resident IT Consultant said he thought I could, until I informed him of my limited vocabulary. After close to 30 years, it’s not as if he will have noticed yet. OK, it’s not bad. But it’s not good. My passive vocabulary is acceptable, but what I am actually able to use confidently is so much smaller.

And on those occasions when I consider saying ‘that word’ out loud (whatever the word might be), I realise I haven’t got a clue how to pronounce it. And you people do not want to know what I do to monasteries on a regular basis. I mean, I know, really. But it just slips out.

So, this morning I’ve been unable to let posturepedic out of my head. (I dare say that’s as good a place as any for it.) I saw this bed advert recently. I have seen the word posturepedic before, and made sense of it. This time I tripped and it took me ages to see what word it was. Try and say it yourselves, using the antepenult rule for where the stress goes. There’s no escape.

It wasn’t beds I set out to have a go at. Just wanted to point out how far from perfect I am before I start complaining. But could someone please tell me why, why, why intelligent and well educated people who work with words will use a phrase like ‘it was a surprise to my husband and I’??? Remove the husband (generally to be recommended) and where are you?

That old teen heart throb David Cassidy used to do a column in my beloved teen magazine, and even he got it right. He reminisced about a girl from school who used to run after her friends, calling ‘wait for I!’. Without a husband it just didn’t work, did it? And I’ve now found it in the book I’m reading, which until then was going so well. Editing? What editing?

I sit up at night, editing. I still leave the odd thing for Son or Daughter to email me about, just to make them feel superior. But I do my best.

Now, at long last, I have found something that I rate below ‘wait for I’. I just don’t know who to blame. David Walliams? Or Penguin? Or the Guardian? At some point there must have been an editor in charge. I quote. ‘…which of course made we kids love it all the more.’


And that leaves me ‘sat’ here moaning about one last thing. I put my trust in Daughter’s teacher, fondly imagining she would tell her how wrong it is. She didn’t. You now get it everywhere, and the Resident IT Consultant has gone so far as to suggest I could be wrong. (He’s sufficiently scared of me not to say so absolutely…) Am I wrong?

I was beginning to think I was, when a lovely author on facebook agreed with me and even offered up a grammatical rule. (I’m useless at grammar.) Soon after there was another author, busy flogging her newly published book in the Guardian (twice in one week), using the phrase, thereby immediately absolving me from any need to show further interest.

Perhaps we are all reading from the same English work sheet Offspring brought home from Primary school. It was about tenses. Present tense looks like this, apparently: ‘I am sitting’, where it’s the sitting that is the present. I always imagined it was ‘I sit, you sit, he/she sits’ and so on.

Goodness me. It’s Saturday. This is supposedly a Bookwitch bites, and here I am, going on and on. Sorry. It must have been the 66 that bewitched me.

I’ll just proofread this now. It’s a mere blog, but…

(This makes it 666 words.)

9 responses to “Bookwitch bites #66

  1. Haha. Your command of the language is pretty good as far as I see! Way better than some native speakers I know!

    PS: Yay! 666!

  2. Thank you! But there IS still a big gap, both with longish Latin based type words, as well as the colloquial kind you pick up among your friends. I have no friends.

  3. I would never have guessed that you had some blind spots with English. Yours is so expressive. Think about writing a book, oh do. It would be all the better for having no longish Latin words and colloquialisms

    As for ‘sat’ , well, round here ie Lancashire, it’s the dialect form, but I wouldn’t have thought that’s where ‘trendy’ people get it from – it’s usually ‘Estuary’ that creeps into standard English, isn’t it? Which makes me think of some creature emerging from the mud…

  4. But English is a flexible language! And all the variations add to the charm.
    It is the meaning that matters, and the cadence, you can fiddle with the grammar after all that. Lots of good writers have unusual grammar (Shakespeare pretty dodgy). I was very much looking forward to reviewing the Stockport (O, glorious land) version of C C Rd.
    So I sit here howling ( surely you can hear the howls?)
    I AM sitting here howling ( clearly here for the long term)
    Here I sit, howling (oh, do get the message)
    I am sat here howling (v bad grammar but conveys in a way that none of the above can manage, a definite impatience with the seat).

  5. Hilary, have you been at the leftover brandy that never made it into/onto the cake?

    I do tend to make up for my shortcomings by making up new words. I’ve got braver that way.

    Estuary. I know it’s meant to be bad, but wouldn’t recognise it if it came up and talked to me.

  6. Did that sound drunken? I’m so sorry. It made perfect sense to me.
    No brandy here, completely unalcoholic day rescuing people with broken oil pumps half way to Wales.

  7. Apologies. You are an angel.
    I’m clearly missing something. A brain, perhaps.

  8. Oh, don’t get I started. But don’t you think the popularity of Sherlock is rather encouraging? That wonderful opening scene in the first series where the guy describes stabbing his wife to death and BC keeps correcting his grammar? Ending with correct use of the word hanged. How sexy is that? (And everything else.)

  9. Heed Meg and I! Us knows.

    Anyway, Sherlock and I are equally picky, it seems. Closet aspies. And what are you up to, remembering some detail like that, long after the fact?

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